Tag Archives: vmworld

Backup and Replication by VMware – New in vSphere 5.1

There have been a slew of announcements coming out of VMworld in San Francisco this week and also a slew of new products and enhancements to existing products.  During the show I was attempting to look at everything from an SMB point of view and a couple of products that really stuck out for me was that of the new vSphere Data Protection and vSphere Replication.  Below are just a few thoughts around each product, what it has to offer and where it is packaged from within VMwares’ licensing editions.

vSphere Data Protection

First off let’s explore vSphere Data Protection (vDP).  There has been a lot of buzz during and even before the show around vDP and how VMware plans to position it.  Working closely with EMC’s Avamar development team VMware have now packaged their own backup and recovery solution into vSphere 5.1, replacing, yet still supporting its’ predecessor VMware Data Recovery.  In my opinion this is a great move for VMware.  vDR was not gaining too much traction within the SMB or Enterprise market however I believe that vDP will.  Why?  Again, it’s built on top of EMCs Avamar backup and recovery technology therefore leveraging years of experience and ‘lessons learned’ which make the product more seasoned and production ready than vDR ever was.  Also this complete solution is managed and embedded directly from within the new vSphere 5.1 Web Client. From within the same menus that you clone a VM, vMotion, perform power operations you can now apply backup policies and ensure your data is safe and protected.  Simply install the backup appliance and you are good to go.  Now vDP is not for everyone and as with any initial release (either on purpose or not) there are some limitations.  A single vDP Appliance can scale up to 2TB of deduplicated storage or 100 VMs total.  Certainly targeted at the SMB market.  I’m excited to see what vDP has to offer and how widely it is adopted in the SMB space.  vDP is bundled in with the Essentials Plus licensing and above.

vSphere Replication


Again this is nothing new.  With the last release of Site Recovery Manager (SRM) vSphere Replication was included and provided users with the ability to perform replication on a per-VM basis without the need of shared storage or costly SAN replication functionality.  The problem there was it was bundled with SRM, a product in which you probably already were utilizing that costly SAN replication technology anyways.  Well, in vSphere 5.1 that has all changed.  Although still available within SRM, vSphere Replication now is included within the Essentials Plus and above licensing.  And on top of that there have been some new features and enhancements made to vSphere Replication – VSS Support, flexible RTO, and simplified management utilizing the new vSphere 5.1 web client are just a few.  Again, there are some limitations.  The biggest being that there is a 2TB limit (don’t take my word on this, I thought I heard it in the session but am trying to find data to back it up, i know there is most certainly a 500 VM limit) on the amount of data that you can replicate.  If you need more than this you will have to purchase the full SRM suite, that being said, still a great alternative and great news for users in the SMB space.

So, a couple of products coming out of VMworld in the realm of data protection.  I’m interested to see within the next year how many people adopt and use this products.  There are no fancy features being offered that you might get with some of the more established third party products such as the ability to instantly restore your VMs, run VMs directly from backup, Re-IP VMs, etc…  The 2TB lmiits imposed on the backup storage do not really bother me that much, however  I would have loved to also see these bundled into at the very least the Essentials ROBO kits.  It would have been a great way to protect those VMs running in a remote office where only one host resides and Essentials Plus didn’t really make sense.  Only time will tell how widely adopted these products will be but this is certainly a great first step for VMware in my opinion.  The ability to manage all of this from directly inside the web client is huge.  And the ability to protect your virtualized environment with products from your virtualization vendor is even better.  I’d love to hear from you, if you plan to use either vDP or vSphere Replication, if your using it now, or even any thoughts you may have on the releases or any other news coming out of VMworld for that matter…Let me know in the comments…

First Impressions of PHD Virtual Backup 6 @ VMworld

Wow!  As always VMworld is crazy, nuts, busy, sleep deprived and full of great information.  Throughout the crazy hustle I had a chance to stop by the PHD Virtual booth and have a look at the new release of their flagship product and award winning PHD Virtual Backup.  6.0 marks this release of their software and let me tell you it looks pretty sweet!

First off let me say that this is truly a feature release.  They have added a ton of new functionality, some of my favorites are highlighted below.but for a full list be sure to check out the release notes.

PHD Instant Recovery

Probably the biggest feature in the bundle if you ask me.  When disaster occurs or a failure happens the most important factor in your recovery is time.  PHD has certainly addressed this with Instant Recovery.  No more lengthy restore process, no more restoring individual virtual disks, just simply power on your VM directly from the backup storage/files.  That’s right, it runs directly from the compressed and encrypted (i’ll get to that later) files located on your backup storage for an immediate recovery.  Once up and going you can simply use VMware’s Storage vMotion to move this VM back to your production or whatever storage you would like to for that matter.  No storage vMotion licensing, no worries!  PHD has also included a technology called PHD Motion which will help you get that recovered VM back into production by basically beginning a restore process at the same time as performing an Instant Restore.  When you are ready to switch back to the restored VM, a syncing process will commit all changes from your Instant Restore VM back to your production VM.

Application Aware Backups

Having the ability to quiesce a file system before a backup is great.  That way you are sure that there is no I/O at all occurring within your OS and you can be sure that you have whats called a ‘Crash Consistent’ backup.  Having the ability to quiesce the applications running within the OS is even better.  PHD Virtual Backup now includes that ability.  Now you can be sure that not just the OS but the applications as well are completely aware that a backup is taking place, thus allowing them to quiesce and to truncate logs, perform shrinking operations, or do anything you want really as you can completely run custom scripts both pre and post snapshot.

Encryption

We all worry about encryption right?  We take measures to protect and ensure that our production data is safe and secure but often the backup data is completely ignored.  Well, PHD Virtual Backup v6 can now encrypt and secure not only the data residing on your backup storage, but they also perform and encryption on the data as it is ‘in transit’ to its’ final destination.  This gives you complete piece of mind that your precious data is completely protected and encrypted from source to target while backing up with PHD Virtual.  Also, the security certificates and firewalls on their virtual appliances are fully customizable, something you don’t normally see when deploying third-parties locked down Virtual Appliances.

Full/Incremental Backup Mode

PHD Virtual provides users with the ability to have a ready to go full backup at all times.  This is fabulous for recovery time and makes the restore process very easy.  That being said this does cause a burden on certain situations where businesses like to completely duplicate their backups to either the cloud or some sort of off-site storage.  With PHD Virtual Backup v6 you can now implement (if you chose to) a more traditional Full/Incremental backup strategy, which will cut down on the size of those incremental backups as well as not always ‘tickle’ your full backup causing it to be copied off-site every-time.  Now users will have less data to move resulting in savings in time, bandwidth, and storage costs.

These are just a few of the new features within PHD Virtual Backup 6.0, there’s many many more including Email Report Enhancements, File Level Recovery enhancements, etc.  If you are at VMworld go and check them out for yourself at Booth 314.   If you were unable to make the show (ugh!  I’m sorry) they have a ton of resources/videos over on their website outlining everything that is new.

 

It all starts with a user group

I've been meaning to write this post for some time now and with my recent nomination of a vExpert I thought the timing was finally right.    The basis was really to just to share my experiences with VMware, its' community, and the knowledge, connections and friendships that I have gained from all of the above and how it all really started with a user group, the VMware User Group.

I began my journey with virtualization back in 2008 after I had taken a promotion at work and was kind of thrown into it.  This was back in the 3.x days and ever since that first vMotion that I seen I can say I was most certainly hooked.  I had some experiences with the community, more specifically the VMTN forums along with attending the odd vForum, but as with anything you really don't get the most out of anything until you develop a passion for the technology.

And that was exactly what happened, with the upgrade to vSphere I found myself managing this virtual environment more and more and really starting to dedicate a lot of my free time reading documentation, whitepapers, following industry experts and their blogs and really starting to dig deep into all that is VMware.

2010 was the year that I started to attend my local VMUG chapter in Toronto on a regular basis, and this is really where my journey began.  December of 2010 brought the full day regional VMUG where I saw a presentation on vCenter Operations, a technology which was still in beta after the Integrien acquisition.  After seeing the power in this product I followed up with Martin, the product manager for the product and landed myself and my company a spot on the beta crew.  I did my best to provide Martin and his team with the most information i could in regards to the product and how we were using it in a production environment and in response to that received a ticket to VMworld.

Now I knew VMworld was going to be big and epic, but never could I have prepared myself for what was to come.  A week full of community events, tweetups, meetups, parties, sessions….it was unbelievalbe really.  One of the tweetups that I attended was hosted by John Troyer and basically just talked about how to start up your own technical blog.  This was something that I had pondered for the years leading up to that day, but never really acted on.  After VMworld I decided I would give it a go…and I think its been a successful venture so far.

So, after the blog was up and going it was really all about building my brand.  I landed some sponsors, ended up on the Veeam Community Podcast for an episode, and ultimately, just last week was named a vExpert for 2012.

So, I guess that's enough rambling for now, but the main takeaway from this post I guess would be to get out to your local VMUGs and engage into conversation with the community.  I mean, I ended up a vExpert, wrote a couple of VCP certifications, started a blog which I now know I love maintaining, and really, it all started with a user group.

Horizon App Manager 1.2 & ThinApp 4.7 Released.

Today VMware has announced the release of ThinApp 4.7 along with the release of Horizon App Manager 1.2.  Seems fitting that they were released at the same time as now ThinApp has the ability to package applications specifically for Horizon, and Horizon has added the support to catalog ThinApp Windows applications.

Before 1.2, Horizon App Manager was an app catalog which could be used to deliver a single sign on experience with active directory integration in order to publish SaaS apps such as Google Apps and box.net to end users.  With the ability to now publish those Windows applications that are used on a daily basis, I can see usage of this product ramping up.  

Essentially the horizon administrators manage what applications (both SaaS and ThinApp Packages) that the end users will see by tying the applications to Active Directory or Horizon specific groups of users.  From there and end user will log into the web portal using their AD credentials and click on their specified application.  Horizon then pulls the ThinApp application from the ThinApp repository and pushes it down to the client machine where it is stored for offline mode, and the appropriate shortcuts and start menu items are created.  From then on, if there is updates to the ThinApp packages, they are pushed down upon the end users next visit to the web portal.  Eric Sloof has a much more in-depth and technical explanation of the whole process here.

A lot of the big buzz from VMworld this year was centered around Project AppBlast which essentially allowed end users to stream ThinApp applications through the likes of Java and HTML5.  Although these releases still do not support any streaming, they are definitely a huge stepping stone to the completion of Project AppBlast.

More information on the Horizon App Manager release is available one the End User Computing Blog, while the ThinApp release is on the ThinApp Blog.  There is also a nice architecture video worth checking out below.

The Resource Pool Priority Pie Paradox Part 1 – Small Piece of Big Pie or Big Piece of Small Pie???

Part 1 – Small Piece of Big Pie or Big Piece of Small Pie
Part 2 – The 4:1 Formula

Post VMworld is among us all and we all have our takeaways from the conference that we want to apply into our production environments at work.  One big one from me came from the Performance Best Practices and Troubleshooting (VSP3866).  This session was jam packed with all the best practices around monitoring, tuning, and troubleshooting vms and hosts with cpu, memory, storage, or networking issues.

Although a lot of information was covered in a short time, and I jotted down the many different scenarios and fixes that I wanted to apply to my own production cluster, however the biggest one that stuck out for me was something called The Resource Pool Priority-Pie Paradox.  Now, this is nothing new, it's been around for quite some time.  Craig Risinger has a great guest blog post on Duncan Epping's Yellow Bricks blog here dating back to February of 2010.  The main point of the article states that having many vms in a production pool with high shares, and few vms in a test pool with low shares could in some scenarios end up with your production vms receiving less cpu and memory than your test vms.

Although there have been many other blog posts about this subject it was something that I have never noticed or even thought of.  The main reason it has never affected our environment is that the resource pool shares will only kick in when contention occurs, and since in our environment we have the physical resources to support all of our vms, we have never had to see the shares mechanisms come into play.  However, if contention ever does occur, this would become a major issue.  It's best to read Duncan's post for a more in depth explanation of this, however, for my own learning, I decided to recreate this with a simple lab example.

I have created a cluster containing two resource pools (Production and Test).  Production has its' shares set to High, whereas Test has its shares set to low.  I've used 6 small VM's( 1 vcpu, 256 Mb Ram) for this example, laid out in a 5 to 1 ratio of Production to Test.  So, if the share mechanisms were to kick in, the Production resource pool would receive 80% off the resources to split amongst its' 5 VMs (16%/vm) and the Test pool would receive 20% of the resources to split amongst only 1 VM (20%/vm).  Looking at the 'Worst Case Scenario' column in the screenshots below you see that in fact, it's much better to be offered the big piece of small pie…

 

So, what is the answer?  I think I will take the easy way out and say it depends.  It depends on the amount of resources in your environment, it depends on the vm's that reside in your resource pools, and it depends on the limit's, reservations, and shares setup on your resource pools.  In this situation, simply setting the shares to custom and setting Production to 9500 and Test to 500 results in the following

As you can see, the Production VMs increased to 636/VM and the Test VM decreased to 169.  You can set the custom shares to whatever you need to in order to get your desired end 'Worst Case Scenario'.  In addition to this, you can also add some reservations and limits, however the main point to get across is that you need to do the math for your environment.  Remember, 2 vCPU VMs will get twice the shares as a 1 vCPU VM, which in turn will sway the numbers even more.  So, right-size your VMs, keep an eye on your 'Worst Case Scenario', and if all else fails, hook up with @DuncanYB or @FrankDenemen on twitter.  

Part 1 – Small Piece of Big Pie or Big Piece of Small Pie
Part 2 – The 4:1 Formula

AppBlast – Hurry up and wait!

Well about a month has passed since VMworld US and I think it's safe to say that a lot of buzz around the product announcements has started to die down and I feel like I’m left with the kind of feeling where I need to 'hurry up and wait'. Hurry up and wait for VMworld Europe announcements, hurry up and wait for VMworld 2012, hurry up and wait for third party vendors to support vSphere 5, but the most painful, anticipating wait for me is the hurry up and wait for AppBlast and Octopus to make it to GA, or even beta for that matter.

Working in education I get the pleasure (???) to work with many different types of applications. By work with, I really mean support, and by support I mean our IT department needs to ensure that every one of these applications work on almost every one of our desktops (and more recently tablets) I've always had the idea in the back of my head that some sort of VDI solution would be the answer to this crazy barrage of applications that we need to support, but the cost of pumping virtual desktops across our wan to 50 locations would be through the roof, not just in VMware licensing, but most of our links are T1s and infrastructure upgrades are not the cheapest undertaking. Thus enters VMware AppBlast. From the moment I saw Steve Herrod on that stage talking about this I could see the perfect fit for education.

I can't even begin to describe the number of applications that a school districts IT department is required to support on a daily basis but I can tell you that it is a nightmare trying to do so. One application may require an updated version of flash and another a legacy version, one may require a specific version of QuickTime, and installing that version of QuickTime may break 6 other applications. It is a losing battle trying to support all of these apps, but in reality, if the application is providing some educational value, helping just one student learn, or enabling one educator to better engage their students in class then we not only have to, but want to make it work, and make it work well.

Sound familiar? Again we heard this phrase throughout the conference. It should just work, and it should just work well!! Well, from what I've seen of AppBlast, coupled with the functionality of Project Octopus and Project Horizon, VMware is right in line with providing education markets the ability to do just that. By taking these applications, using ThinApp to bundle them up, and then push them out through nothing but an HTML5 browser and some java we can eliminate the headaches that come along with trying to make a hundred applications play nice together. But can we eliminate more? Do we need a full desktop image on all of our end points? In some cases we would! Supporting things like video editing or autocad situations, but for the majority of our deployments we really just need to provide access to these low flying applications, a word processor, and Internet access. Essentially i can see AppBlast giving us the ability to deploy an endpoint with just a browser to accomplish just that, thus falling more in line with the ever shrinking budgets for school districts!

The fact that the applications can run on any device is obviously the big seller for AppBlast, and with the recent explosion of iPads and Android tablets making there way into our schools it will definitely provide us with the 'windows apps on the Ipad' solutions, but there have been enough blog posts and demos showing that off and I wanted to take a different angle on AppBlast and show how it can help with simple application management.

Only time will tell if AppBlast will deliver the expectations that I have in mind for it, but for now, from what I've seen I'm very excited!  All I can really do now is hurry up and wait.

VMworld 2011 and the community that surrounds it!

When I first learned that I was going to be attending VMworld this year,  I was very excited.  Excited to be at the centre of all the new technology, excited to participate in the technical deep-dive sessions, excited to get my hands dirty with some of the new features of vSphere 5 in the hands on labs, excited to experience all that is Vegas for the first time.  Just excited as a whole to be part of this large conference.  However, upon my return from the fabulous Las Vegas and the even more fabulous VMworld I’ve realized that my initial expectations and views on the conference had somewhat changed.

Sure, I’m grateful to have experienced everything that I have listed above, but to me, as with most other conferences that I’ve attended, the most memorable, beneficial experiences have came from the conversations in the hallways.   At VMworld, this point was elevated to new heights.  After signing up for the conference I began to pay a little more attention to my twitter feeds, my rss feeds, and just began listening to the many podcasts available centred around VMware.  This proved to be the best preparation that I could have possibly done for VMworld.  I truly found out why VMware and its’ partners have always bragged and boasted about the community surrounding them.

What made my experience at my first VMworld memorable all began and ended with the community.  The community that has assembled itself around virtualization, and more specifically VMware virtualization is one of the strongest and tightest that I’ve ever seen.  It truly is a welcoming, helpful, and educational experience being involved with this community.  I can go on all day about how much I appreciate the support of all the VMware community members, but I’d rather just stick to a few specific examples of how they helped me get the most of my first (and hopefully many) appearances at VMworld.

Example 1 – The Social Aspect

We all know that there are many parties hosted by many different community members and vendors at VMworld.  When I first started to find out through social media and blog posts how to get into some of these parties I thought there was no way I’d get invites, being just a small customer and virtually unknown to the hosts.  That was until I read a post by Christopher Kusek (@cxi).  Christopher basically mentioned that if you haven’t received a ticket, whether the were tickets left or not, to just send an email….you never know.  So, I sent an email off to Christopher regarding his CXIparty and immediately got a response with an invite.  I was shocked, even more shocked when our email conversation went back and forth many times in the weeks leading up to VMworld.  To me, Christopher is the perfect example of a truly dedicated community member.   I barely know him, have only met him once, and he has gone out of his way to ensure that my experience (and even my wifes) at VMworld was truly epic.

Example 2 – Those humble rock-stars

No, I’m not talking about The Killers, I’m talking about all of those famous bloggers and tweeps out there that are consistently day after day rolling out blog posts and dedicating their personal time to speak at various events and VMUGs.   After following some of these people on twitter and reading their blogs for the last few years I made it a point to go up and introduce myself and thank them for their commitment, time, and great content that they have been producing.  Each and everyone one of them (and there are way too many to name) seemed to be somewhat humbled and appreciative to accept complements from me.  They thanked me for saying hello, and it was really nice to put a real face to all of those twitter handles!  I felt a bit awkward in a way, but quickly realized that I was not alone, as there were many other attendees there doing the same thing.  Most of the ideas and conversations throughout the community are started by one of the many virtualization bloggers and that’s what makes them the rockstars!

Example 3 – John Troyer

Does this guy ever quit?  It seemed that everywhere that I went the VMware social media evangelist was there…and with more energy than the rest of the room combined.  The man arranged many vMeetups in the community lounge (including the one that caused me to start this blog), delivers a content rich podcast every Wednesday and really knows how to make  splash at a party 🙂  Not to mention I’m sure he had many, many hours of planning leading up to VMworld.   Kudos to John (@jtroyer)  for all his hard work over the years.

These are only three examples of many that make the VMware community what it is today.  I urge anyone who hasn’t invested some time in the community to do so, as it seems to be growing stronger and stronger every day.  I would also like to thank the community for being so welcoming, it really did make my first VMworld experience one to remember.